'Everyone should go to bed like they have a date at the door': The wit of Karl Lagerfeld

'Everyone should go to bed like they have a date at the door': The wit of Karl Lagerfeld
By Alice Tidey & Joel Chatreau
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"Everything I say is a joke. I am a joke myself."


"I've always known that I was made to live this way, that I would be this sort of legend," Karl Lagerfeld, who passed away on Tuesday in Paris, once said.

The iconic fashion designer will forever be remembered for reviving the House of Chanel into a global powerhouse, for his inexhaustible work ethic and for his own curated look — perhaps more famous than some of his designs.

But the German-born designer, photographer and cartoonist was also feared and adored in equal measure for his acerbic wit, which he delivered with machine-gun staccato in slightly accented French.

'I was brought up European'

Lagerfeld divulged very little about his upbringing but his childhood in Hamburg, Germany, was one of wealth. He once let it slip that "when I was four I asked my mother for a valet for my birthday."

He also said: "I was brought up European. At 6 I spoke three languages: English, French and German."

His formidable rise started in 1954 when he won the Woolmark Prise, alongside another young designer who would also go on to redefine womenswear, Yves Saint Laurent. He then worked for Pierre Balmain and Jean Patou before going freelance in the 1960s.

Fendi, a family-run fashion house based in Milan, secured his services in 1965 and he remained the company's creative director until his death. But it's with Chanel, which he joined in 1983, that Lagerfeld's name will always be intrinsically linked.

Although, he was certain, "what I do Coco would have hated. The label has an image and it's up to me to update it. I do what she never did."

'Everyone should go to bed like they have a date at the door'

Along the decades, his own look became more tailored, almost uniform-like with the immaculate high collar shirt coming to define him.

This he credited his mother. "When I was a child, my mother always told me that you could wake up in the middle of the night and be deathly sick, So you always have to be impeccable. I laugh about it now, but I think everyone should go to bed like they have a date at the door," he said.

REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
Products are pictured in a Karl Lagerfeld store in Berlin, Germany, February 19, 2019.REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Any criticism he dismissed with his self-deprecation — for he spared nothing and no-one, not even himself.

"I am like a caricature of myself, and I like that. It is like a mask. And for me the Carnival of Venice lasts all year long, " he explained, also saying: "Everything I say is a joke. I am a joke myself."

Any perceived loftiness he batted away with: "I am very much down-to-earth. Just not this earth."

'Why should I stop working?'

Despite his status, Lagerfeld never stopped working. Instead, he seemingly always took on more and more, producing some 20 collections a year at the end for Fendi, Chanel and his Karl Lagerfeld brand.

"I am a kind of fashion nymphomaniac who never gets an orgasm," he once remarked.

"Why should I stop working? If I do, I'll die and it'll all be finished. I'm lucky to work in the most perfect conditions. I can do what I want in all kinds of areas. The expenses are not expenses. I would be stupid to stop that. Work is making a living out of being bored," he also said.

Longevity required, according to him, "a sense of humour and a little lack of respect: that's what you need to make a legend survive."

REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo
Chanel's creative director Karl Lagerfeld poses before the opening of his photo exhibition entitled "Little Black Jacket" at the Grand Palais in Paris November 8, 2012.REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo

'Sweatpants are a sign of defeat'

Among the things that repulsed him were tattoos which he described as "horrible. It's like living in a Pucci dress full-time."


Leisure wear was also a non-starter: "Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life so you bought some sweatpants."

Controversially, he championed thin models, saying: "they are fat mummies sitting with their bags of crisps in front of the television, saying that thin models are ugly."

Perhaps his best advice was: "don't dress to kill, dress to survive."

'There will be no burial'

Tributes from the world over poured on social media following the announcement of his death. Fellow designers, models including long-time collaborators Ines de la Fressange, Claudia Schiffer and his beloved cat Choupette were among those paying their respect.

Details of his final resting place have not been divulged. The designer had previously let it be known that he wished to be cremated with his ashes "to be dispersed with those of my mother...and those of Choupette, if she dies before me."


"There will be no burial. I'd rather die."

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